10 Tips on How to Survive as a Freelance Photographer

Freelance photography can be a rewarding and fun career, even if you just pursue it part time, but it’s a jungle out there with endless competition. Here are some quick tips to help you get started:

worried model

1. Always work.

You won’t always have paying customers, but that shouldn’t stop you from working. Go out and photograph anything you can. Find important public events and notice your city, whether it’s architecture or street photography. Your home town has plenty of subjects you haven’t covered yet. Try conceptual photography if you feel tempted—experience fine art maybe. Anything you can photograph will be useful someday.

city view stock photo

2. Get yourself out there.

Get serious about social media and your web presence. If you are having trouble finding clients, perhaps they’ll find you via social media. Build an online portfolio and a social following. Without these, you don’t exist as a photographer.

fine art photography

3. Get passive income.

Whether you have paying customers or not, passive income will always be there for you. The best way to get a steady flow of passive income is to build a stock photography portfolio. You’ll see how useful those photographs I talked about in point one really are.


4. Do some networking.

Get as many contacts as you can from every place or situation you get yourself into. The more online and offline contacts you have, the more chances you’ll have to succeed.

moulin rouge

5. Be informed.

Always be in-the-know to what’s going on around you and in the world. Go to industry-related fairs and workshops, read blogs, buy books, and follow your competitors’ feeds. If someone is looking for a photographer in your area and you didn’t see the ad, you don’t get the job. It’s as simple as that. Information is power, but even more importantly in the freelancing world, information is money.


6. Invest in yourself.

You’re your own boss, so don’t expect someone else to invest in your business. With each paying job you get, direct 10 to 20 percent of the income to improve your equipment and your presence. Always try to buy better lenses, a better camera, better looking clothes, better business cards, better online promotions, etc. Set the percent you want to invest and stick with it, even if you need to cut some personal expenses for it.

flowers bokeh

7. Keep it legal.

Try not to skip any legal requirements for conducting a photography business. You have competition, and even if they’re friendly, they won’t hesitate to put you out of business if that means getting a chunk for themselves. You’re on your own, so if anything goes wrong, no big corporation with expensive lawyers will have your back just to keep their image clean. Contracts, insurance, releases for models—get everything in order.

forest photo

8. Identify needs.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Don’t spam people with your offers, but try to think constructively and identify potential buyers’ needs. Is the local basketball team having a good year, but fans are missing their games? Maybe their online presence is weak, or maybe they don’t communicate with the community very well. Write them and offer your services as a photographer. It won’t work every time, and it doesn’t apply to every situation, but you should always try to identify a need and come up with an offer. Isn’t that how the economy works anyway? Wherever there’s a need, there will be an offer. And it better be yours.

latte pie chart

9. Be awesome and over-deliver.

You’re scheduled to be there at 10am? Be there at 9.30am. You need to deliver 50 photos? Deliver 75. They expect decent photos? Deliver awesome photos. Make them talk good about you. Make them be your marketing agents.

baby in window stock photography

10. Be jolly.

Yes, be a pleasant person. Smile, be polite, and try not to talk back even if you’re right. Avoid internet beef, recommend other people when you can, and offer your advice only when you’re asked. Everybody’s trying to surround themselves with good people. Be that good company that everyone is looking for.

About the Author:
Viorel Dudau is a photo editor for Dreamstime.

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One response to “10 Tips on How to Survive as a Freelance Photographer”

  1. Great tips. I especially liked the tip about getting serious on social media and an online presence. Because it is very effective. It also helps to have a daily blog where photos and activities of the day are posted daily. It helps to keep a good check of ones freelance career. And it helps to motivate and challenge oneself to carry on everyday.

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